This interesting autobiography (2011) by Kassim Ahmad details his humble origin as a kampung boy from Kedah to his days in the University of Malaya, his four years of lecturing in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in the UK before returning to teach at a secondary school in Penang. It also details his intellectual development from a school boy to liberal socialism, then socialist Marxism, his eventual rejection of it and his return to Islam. His commitment to the socialist cause made him an activist and inevitably into politics. He become chairman of Parti Rakyat Malaya which he led for 18 years. He was detained under ISA for more than 5 years. Ultimately, according to Kassim, it was his disillusion with socialist Marxism that led him to resign from Parti Rakyat Malaya in 1984 and joined UMNO in 1986. In the years following, his renewed interest in Islam led to his controversial analysis of the Hadith which provoke much debate and discussion.

It is not a straight forward narrative autobiography because Kassim interspersed the events in his life with his commentaries on socialism, colonialism, political sciences, philosophy, imperialism, Islam and Malaysian politics. He seems to have a good memory for names because there is a large number of people mentioned in this book. To my delight, he also mentioned the names of books and authors that were influential in his intellectual and political development.

Kassim Ahmad’s blog Kassim Ahmad